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Do breath test devices provide reliable results?

As a motorist in Virginia, you may run the risk of being asked to submit to a roadside breath test if a law enforcement officer suspects that you are drinking and driving. Although you face certain penalties if your refuse to participate in this test, studies show that the results of breath tests may not always accurately reflect your true blood alcohol content level. In fact, they may show inflated readings, which could lead to a wrongful arrest and charge of a DUI.

Researchers from the State University of New York at Potsdam compared the results of breath test devices to actual blood test results and found that, in some cases, the two readings were significantly different. One out of four people who take breath tests run the risk of having a breath test reading that is higher than the actual blood alcohol content level measured by a blood test.

The study found that certain factors and substances in the environment can influence breath test results. These factors include the following:

  •          Electrical interference from cellular devices or law enforcement radios.
  •          Any residual food, drink, blood or vomit residue left in the subject’s mouth.
  •          Subject’s exposure to certain chemical fumes, including cleaners, paint and gasoline.
  •          Certain medications the subject may be taking.
  •          The relative temperature and humidity of the air.

Furthermore, the accuracy of the reading is dependent on whether the breath test device has been properly calibrated and is being used correctly by the law enforcement officer. Also, excessive physical activity has been shown to actually decrease BAC readings on breath test devices.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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